A Land More Kind Than Home (Hardcover)
William Morrow & Company, 9780062088147, 320pp.
Publication Date: April 17, 2012
May 2012 Indie Next List
— Cathy Langer, Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, CO
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"Bold, daring, graceful, and engrossing."
--Bobbie Ann Mason
"This book will knock your socks off....A first novel that sings with talent."
A stunning debut reminiscent of the beloved novels of John Hart and Tom Franklin, A Land More Kind Than Home is a mesmerizing literary thriller about the bond between two brothers and the evil they face in a small western North Carolina town
For a curious boy like Jess Hall, growing up in Marshall means trouble when your mother catches you spying on grown-ups. Adventurous and precocious, Jess is enormously protective of his older brother, Christopher, a mute whom everyone calls Stump. Though their mother has warned them not to snoop, Stump can't help sneaking a look at something he's not supposed to--an act that will have catastrophic repercussions, shattering both his world and Jess's. It's a wrenching event that thrusts Jess into an adulthood for which he's not prepared. While there is much about the world that still confuses him, he now knows that a new understanding can bring not only a growing danger and evil--but also the possibility of freedom and deliverance as well.
Told by three resonant and evocative characters--Jess; Adelaide Lyle, the town midwife and moral conscience; and Clem Barefield, a sheriff with his own painful past--A Land More Kind Than Home is a haunting tale of courage in the face of cruelty and the power of love to overcome the darkness that lives in us all. These are masterful portrayals, written with assurance and truth, and they show us the extraordinary promise of this remarkable first novel.
Praise For A Land More Kind Than Home…
“Mesmerizing . . . only Jess knows why his autistic older brother died on the very day he was taken into the church, and it’s his voice that we carry away from this intensely felt and beautifully told story.”
-New York Times Book Review
“Cash adeptly captures the rhythms of Appalachian speech, narrating his atmospheric novel in the voices of three characters . . . The story has elements of a thriller, but Cash is ultimately interested in how unscrupulous individuals can bend decent people to their own dark ends.”
“Absorbing . . . Cash uses well-placed flashbacks to flesh out his characters . . . and to illuminate a familiar truth of Southern lit: Many are the ways that fathers fail their sons.”
“Wiley Cash makes his debut with this fine, engaging novel, proving yet again that the South is an inexhaustible motherlode of literature. I’m sure he’ll garner comparisons to Harper Lee, perhaps even to Faulkner or Flannery O’Connor, but Wiley Cash is Wiley Cash—a new, strong Southern voice in American fiction.”
-John Lawton, author of A Lily of the Field
“As lyrical, beautiful, and uncomplicated as the classic ballads of Appalachia, Cash’s first novel is a tragic story of misplaced faith and love gone wrong . . . In a style reminiscent of Tom Franklin and John Hart, Cash captures the reader’s imagination.”
-Library Journal (starred review)
“This book will knock your socks off. It’s so good to read a first novel that sings with talent. Wiley Cash has a beautifully written hit on his hands.”
-Clyde Edgerton, author of The Night Train
“A riveting story! The writing is bold, daring, graceful, and engrossing.”
-Bobbie Ann Mason, author of In Country
“I try to state the truth and dislike flinging superlatives about with mad abandon, but I have been so deeply impressed by this novel that only superlatives can convey the tenor of my thought: this is one of the most powerful novels I have ever read.”
-Fred Chappell, author of Brighten the Corner Where You Are
“Whew! Wiley Cash is the real deal and his first novel is an atmospheric crossroads filled with characters who long for better, but know that their best will never be good enough, is dense with stories intersecting like the branches in a laurel hell.”
-Nancy Peacock, author of Life Without Water
“Cinematic and symphonic: this is a compelling story revealed in a sequence of voices that are as pitch-perfect as they are irresistible. This is a wonderfully impressive debut: tender, muscled and unforgettable.”
-Rikki Ducornet, author of The Fan Maker's Inquisition
“This novel has great cumulative power. Before I knew it I was grabbed by the ankle and pulled down into a full-blown Greek tragedy.”
-Gail Godwin, author of Evensong
“The first thing that struck me about Wiley’s novel is the beautiful prose: the narrative is strong, clean, direct and economical. . . . I think this could be the beginning of a long, fruitful career.”
-Ernest J. Gaines, author of A Lesson Before Dying
“Cash’s debut novel explores Faulkner-O’Connor country . . . As lean and spare as a mountain ballad, Cash’s novel resonates perfectly, so much so that it could easily have been expanded to epic proportions. An evocative work about love, fate and redemption.”
“A chilling descent into the world of religious frenzy in small town North Carolina . . . The languid atmosphere seduces, and Cash’s fine first effort pulls the reader into a shadowy, tormented world where wolves prowl in the guise of sheep.”
“A Land More Kind Than Home is a powerfully moving debut that reads as if Cormac McCarthy decided to rewrite Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.”
“Cash’s debut about a town gripped by a menacing preacher has the timeless qualities of the Old Testament. . . . [a] very good book.”
-The Daily Beast
“A lyrical, poignant debut . . . In the mode of John Hart, Tom Franklin, and early Pat Conroy, A Land More Kind Than Home explores the power of forgiveness [and] the strength of family bonds.”
“Good old-fashioned storytelling. . . . With murder, religion, infidelity, domestic abuse, guns, whiskey and snake handling, Land is rich in unstable relationships and beautiful tragedy.”
“Wiley Cash’s novel embeds a tender coming-of-age story within a suspense-filled thriller. . . . [A] clear-sighted, graceful debut.”
“So beautifully written that you’ll be torn about how fast to read it. This is great, gothic Southern fiction.”
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
- Think about the epigraph the author chose to open the book and from which the novel's title derives. What is the significance of this particular quote? How does it set the novel's tone and mood? Explain what the title—"a land more kind than home"—signifies.
- The novel is told from three characters' perspectives. How does this add to the story and deepen it as it unfolds? How might it be different if it had been told from only one of the character's point of view?
- Talk about Carson Chambliss. Describe his character. Why does he have such a magnetic hold on his congregation, and especially on Julie? Is Julie a good mother? Can you understand why she behaved the way she did? Do you think she understood the truth of her son, Stump's fate? Why is Addie so afraid of him?
- How might the events of the story have unfolded differently if Jess had told his mother the truth about what she heard at the Sunday afternoon service?
- Describe this small North Carolina town in which the story takes place. What is it like? How does its size and remoteness influence the lives of those who call it home? Sheriff Clem Barfield is not native to Madison County. How does this impact the way he sees this place and its people?
- How can religion uplift a person's soul? How can it be corrupting influence? Julie considers herself to be a "good Christian woman." What do you think? Whether you are Christian or not, religious or not, what is your definition of a "good Christian?" Is anyone in the novel virtuous, and if so, in what way?
- Why did Addie pull the children out of Chambliss's services? Did she have any other options?
- When Jess asks his grandpa if Stump will be able to talk in heaven, Jimmy tells him, "Of course he will. We'll all be able to talk. And we'll be able to understand each other." What does his answer reveal about him and the world? What is he trying to teach Jess?
- Think about Jimmy Hall. What kind of relationship does she have with his son? What about with Sheriff Barefield?
- Can this novel be compared to a Shakespearean tragedy? If so, in what ways? Think about various stories and proverbs from the Bible. How are they reflected in the story?
- What role does nature and the natural world play in the novel?
- Addie believes that this place and its people will be saved in the wake of tragedy. Do you believe in salvation? What role does forgiveness play in this story? Do you think people can change for the better? What about Jimmy Hall? How do the novel's events impact his relationship with the sheriff and with his grandson, Jess?
- Think about the novel's themes: revenge, faith, betrayal, goodness and evil, forgiveness and understanding. Choose a character and show how these themes are demonstrated through his or her life.